Jess Xmas 2010 225x300 - Holiday Baking and Healthy Swaps

Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away

Holiday cookie-baking is a long-standing tradition in my family. Even in my early, feel-as-you-go days of functional adulthood (aka in my past life as a declawed housecat), I would partake in the ritual every year, making treats for family, friends, colleagues, classmates—anyone in my life, basically, to whom I wanted to show some holiday love on a very tiny grad-student budget.

In retrospect, I should have insisted to my then-boyfriend that we give the doormen in our building something a little greener than a paper plate of sugar, but that is neither here nor there. I just hope the people who rented the apartment after I moved on gifted well. It was a long time ago and I doubt said doormen even remember past-life Jess at all, but the truth is, I’m still a little embarrassed when I think about the way that list of names the building sent out each year just sat on the mail pile for weeks. First world problems, I know.

Anyway, no more tales from the dark farm. This is a blog post about COOKIES! Or,well, baking.

For better or worse, I don’t do a lot of baking anymore. I know some people find it relaxing, but all that measuring and mixing and waiting for this to cool or that to preheat is kind of stressful and way too much like chemistry class for me. If I have a bad day, I want to pour myself a whiskey and roast some vegetables and a hunk of meat to go with them. Or if not meat, then a nice piece of fish or maybe I’ll sear some scallops just to prove to myself I can still do something right.

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When I do bake, sometimes I like to experiment with little changes to recipes to make them allergy-friendly or to be a  bit healthier.  Earlier in the season, I actually shared some of my favorite tweaks with Shape for ways to make your baked treats a little less guilt-inducing so you can focus on enjoying the holidays without the nagging “why the eff did I eat that” thought-cloud.

IMG 4109 300x244 - Holiday Baking and Healthy SwapsOne of my personal favorites from the list is the pumpkin puree in place of oil. Using applesauce gives me flashbacks to the 1990s and fat-free, sucked-dry everything—no, thank you. Texture is super-important, and the pumpkin keeps things nice and moist (sorry for saying the “m” word).

I’ve also been known to sneak black beans into things because I can. It works especially well with boxed brownie mix. I also like using Greek yogurt in place of things like mayo and sour cream. I also like using coconut oil in place of butter, but that’s more out of not wanting to buy lots of ingredients I don’t use often. Same goes for flour and sugar. Sometimes you really do just need the real deal, like when it comes to these red wine brownies .

One thing I keep meaning to play around with is ghee in baked goods. Has anyone tried that before and have any tips/tricks I should know?

Enough rambling for one day. Hope you  have a lovely rest of your weekend : )

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